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White House Wants Your Email Address During SOTU Tonight

New Sharing Tools Will Give President Obama Information About You

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If you like your political theater shareable and data-enhanced, you're in luck. The White House will unveil a new tool allowing people to share specific passages from President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address tonight. The tool, called Citizen Response, could also enhance the data the Administration gathers about people and the issues they care about.

Nextgov linked to a preview of the tool using last year's annual address in a story earlier today. The app will allow people to highlight specific lines in the address, and lets them share the passages on Facebook and Twitter, including a message explaining why the issue matters to them. But there's a catch: to share lines from the speech through the app, people must submit their email address. The tool preview also requests a Zip code though that does not appear to be required.

Viewers have to sign-in through the app to Facebook and Twitter in order to use it to share on those platforms. It isn't clear how the White House will use the information gathered through the app. The White House did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Data are important to any government administration, and the Obama White House has embraced data and data-visualization as means of reinforcing its stance on issues. Tonight's live streamed version of the State of the Union Address, for the third year in a row, will be accompanied by images, charts and graphs that illuminate the array of points he's expected to make on issues such as gun control and immigration policy.

"See the information that informed the President's policy decisions," states a video promoting tonight's enhanced speech stream. The stream can be viewed at WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU and through the White House app on iPhone, iPad and Android devices.

The President's Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips in 2011 introduced the first-ever enhanced stream of the annual talk, already chock full of pomp, circumstance and planned news-clip ready moments.

The digital world is becoming more and more image-centric, so it's no surprise the White House has used the approach, taking a cue from the President's own election campaign visuals. Mr. Phillips ran the new media program for the Presidential Transition Team and served as deputy director of the Obama 2008 campaign's new media department.

Data visualization was used as an element in Obama 2012 campaign ads, too. Early display ads from the Obama 2012 camp the day of the South Carolina primary featured an animated graph highlighting U.S. job growth data, for instance.

For political campaigns, much of the value of digital imagery is derived when supporters share them in social media. It also isn't clear whether the live stream data visualizations themselves will be shareable in some way.

Following the 9pm SOTU speech, the White House will make available "policy experts and advisors" for a live chat. People can ask questions using hashtag #whchat on Twitter, or post their inquiries to the White House's Facebook or Google Plus pages

The White House has also embraced the concept of data visualization to illuminate information collected by Obama Administration agencies. In 2010, for instance, the White House promoted a Sunlight Foundation project asking people to build visualizations of community health data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Will the GOP get into the data visualization game for its rebuttals to tonight's SOTU? If so, the Republicans have not promoted any image-centric plans. But the party will use data to refute the President's points as it live-tweets from @RNCResearch during the speech.

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